Hey guys! I know that I already wrote about going to Dublin Pride a few weeks ago, but in a later post I also promised to show you a longer piece I’ve been working on for my writing workshop. This was for an assignment about weaving in historical context. I’m really glad I picked this topic because I learned so much while writing it! The project sent me to places such as the Irish Queer Archive of the National Library of Ireland and back issues of the Irish Times… and, well, you know how much I love me some Good Old-Fashioned Gay Research™.
Trigger warning for mentions of homophobia, violence, and slurs.
The pounding bass of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” vied for attention with equally loud Beyoncé tunes as rainbow flags rippled gently in the breeze. Hundreds of conversations went on all around me as parade-goers figured out where to meet up with one another when the afternoon was over.
One of those strangers squeezed past me, elbowing me in the side in their hurry to get somewhere – a better location from which to view the parade, perhaps. My stomach flip-flopped at the thought of being surrounded by so many people: What if I was separated from my friends, who were far better than me at navigating this city?
Normally, I would do everything in my power to get away from such a situation. As an introvert with social anxiety, crowds and loud noises are definitely not ideal. And yet that day, June 24th, there was nowhere else I’d rather be. Yes, the crush of people was distressing to me, but I was determined to stick it out, even if my anxiety about crowds sent me into yet another panic attack. I’d longed for the weekend when I would go to Pride with my friends from the study abroad program. Now that that time was finally here, I wanted to make the most of it.
Standing on Cuffe Street, decked out in glitter, multicolored leis, and rainbow suspenders, I cheered along with everyone else – a crowd of some 30,000. Although it was not my first Pride, it was my first such event in a large city.
Although the crowd that day was small compared to that of some other Pride parades held around the world, the size and scope of the event had certainly grown from its origins in 1983, when just nine hundred people had turned out. It was hard to believe that so much had changed for the Irish LGBT community in just thirty-four years.
Pride parades had been held in various locations worldwide since the first one in New York City in 1970, but Dublin’s first Pride parade was held in response to the killing of Declan Flynn, a young gay man who was murdered in Fairview Park in September 1983.
According to an article published in the Irish Times on March 9, 1983, one of the killers told the Gardaí, “We were part of the team to get rid of queers from Fairview Park. A few of us had been queer-bashing for about six weeks before and battered about twenty steamers. We used to grab them. If they hit back we gave it to them.”
When Flynn’s five killers all walked free after having been given suspended sentences, many in Dublin celebrated, regarding it as a sign that the neighborhood was being ‘cleaned up.’
Judge Seán Gannon was quoted as saying, “This could never be regarded as murder.”
As I stood in a patch of sunlight – rare even during the Irish summer – it was difficult to wrap my mind around the idea that Ireland had made so much progress in a relatively short amount of time. Earlier that month, Ireland had elected their first gay Taoiseach, or prime minister: Leo Varadkar. For a still staunchly Catholic country where homosexuality was still a crime only twenty-four years ago, this was a monumental event.
In the minister’s own words, “If someone had predicted back in 1992 that one year later homosexuality would be decriminalized, or that twenty-three years later gay and lesbian people would be legally able to marry the person they love, or that two years after that a gay man would be elected Taoiseach of the country, then I think they would actually have been derided.”
He then congratulated Irish citizens on their contributions toward equality for all, saying that “I don’t think that I have changed things for you; I think people like you have changed things for me.” The fact that he was able to utter those words at all, as the now-prime minister of a country with such a past of homophobia, was a sign of immense progress.
And yet, the parade also reminded me of how much work there was to be done. One of my favorite floats that day, covered in flowers and drawings of men kissing men and women kissing women, bore the words “EQUAL MARRIAGE NORTH AND SOUTH,” reminding me that Ireland was a country still divided in many ways. As I gazed at the mass of people flowing past me in all directions, my heart warmed at the thought that all of these people, no matter how much work lay ahead of them, had faith that things would change for the better.